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Experiencing the Spirit

By The Rev. James D. Findlay

James FindlayAs we pass the midway point between Equinox and Solstice, the sun rises earlier and sets later – and a time of growth and gladness expands for us and for the natural world (though we are still in desperate need of rain, and WATER JUSTICE, here in California!).  As field crops burgeon and busy schedules turn toward summer, the texts of our traditions speak to us of the Spirit: its coming, and how it transforms and sustains.  Pentecost, the Birthday of the Church in its Many-Tongued Ever-Shifting Reality, is the defining day of the current sacred season.  And as the Church is nurtured and urged onward by the Spirit, we also are moved by that same Spirit in our own inner and outer journeys.  In our lives and our life together, we are called by the Scriptures to savor how to experience the Spirit.

On Pentecost Day, two primal and familiar texts teach us wondrous things of the Spirit.  Ezekiel’s vision of the Dry Bones in Chapter 37 of his book shows that the Spirit comes from across the wide expanse of the Earth: “Come from the four winds, O Spirit, and breathe upon these slain” (37:9).  It is breath, it gives life, it courses over the land, and it moves in our bones.  Though unseen and unseeable, it has direct physical effects.  We know the Spirit in bodies, even though we cannot grasp it.  This is its great gift – to be powerful in the most subtle way!  And in Acts 2, the Word speaks of the Spirit as fire and flame, wind like a tornado.  It fills rooms, open hearts and ears, unleashes tongues to sing and speak in new modes of communication.  This is true within us as well as among us: when the Spirit moves, we know ourselves more clearly, just as the Spirit moves to bring us into community with others who we would never know (or wish to know!) without the Spirit’s guidance.  And as wind and flame beyond our control, it can bring disturbance as well as calm.  It does what it will – and we always benefit (John 3:8).

Jesus speaks of the Spirit as the Presence who comes in his Absence.  This is an essential aspect of spiritual experience: there is a Deep Presence – but it cannot be explained or described.  And the departure of the concrete and graspable, even the Jesus we have long known, is needed for our growth.  “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you” (John 16:7).  Here the Spirit is “the Paraclete,” an unseen Presence which provides support, encouragement, and power when we most need it, and seem most to be without resources.  It is to our advantage to have the known and familiar depart.  Then we are left with the greater power of our inner life, and the Divine Within which gives us speech, silence, and strength, each one as we need it.

Finally, Paul reminds us that the journey of the Spirit is ongoing, a constant process of growth, even when we do not sense it consciously.  He offers encouragement and insight about the Spirit’s steady work in us: “So we do not lose heart.  Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day” (2 Cor. 4:16).  In all our activities, rising up and lying down, going out and coming in, sleeping and waking, the Spirit is active, often beneath our conscious awareness, always renewing, always blessing.  And as we grow in the awareness of the Spirit and its silent constant activity, we awaken to the Divine in ourselves and all things: “We look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).

In this season of the Spirit, may we receive its blessings, and become more joyously attentive to its abiding transforming presence and power.

Note from author: Please feel free to contact me via e-mail at sleight_of_time@yahoo.com .  I wish to engender a conversation among us about how the Word and Spirit are active in our lives, and how we might nurture these gifts further. I also am happy to work with groups and individuals on how to nurture the Word and Spirit among us. Please visit my Facebook Page at   www.facebook.com/pages/Spiritual-Accompaniment-Services/219750211459838  as another way of being in this sacred conversation. I look forward to hearing from many of you soon!

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